Jeff Embleton ’00 is living out the Gilmour mission every day. He clearly has the competence to see and the courage to act and is working to create a more humane and just society. Whether in his work or his pastimes, there is one underlying theme – working for others. After graduating from Kenyon College in ’04, Embleton moved to Oakland, Calif. where he worked as a special education teacher for students in grades 6-12. After discovering that there was no after-school programming, Embleton started a middle school soccer league that included 15 Oakland-area schools. Soccer was the game of choice as Embleton was a soccer player both at Gilmour and at Kenyon. Embleton employed his other passion, gardening, as well, to engage his students in Oakland. He received a $10,000 grant to start a school garden, teaching the students about nature and responsibility. While teaching and coaching, Embleton also completed his master of fine arts in writing and consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies, graduating in 2008.
Last August, Embleton moved across the country to Brooklyn. He is currently the dean of culture at a brand new inner city charter school in Brooklyn called Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School. Currently, the school is for sixth graders and there are 112 enrolled. As the dean of culture, Embleton is responsible for creating a positive school climate by shaping the character and cultural development of the students. He works with the kids on anti-bullying programming, inclusivity training and on tactics they can utilize to deal with difficulties and issues. He plans to implement a middle school soccer league and school garden, similar to the ones he started in Oakland.
In addition to helping shape the mentalities of middle-schoolers, Embleton is passionate about shifting the way people think about the environment. After reading an article last summer about a group of people banding together in West Virginia to save a mountain, Embleton was inspired. While he says he was conscious of the things that happen in our world that make our lifestyles possible, he had an awakening of sorts and was moved to write. His creation was a letter written from the earth to a child. He wrote several other poems, all centered on the environmental traumas taking place in the United States. He decided he wanted people to experience his poems with visual accompaniment, so he enlisted the help of some of his artist friends and they collaborated on an illustrated book.
The book, titled “Letters from the Earth,” is a collection of original writing, art and photography that fosters conversation about how we live our lives and what it is doing to the environment. The hope that Embleton and his collaborators have is that it will inspire people to recognize the need for change.
In order for the book to be printed, the group had to undertake a significant fundraising effort. They launched an online 45-day fundraising campaign this summer. It began June 1 and ran through July 15. In that time frame, the group raised 200 percent of their goal. The money raised will be used for publishing and distribution. The group, in keeping with their message, will print the books using an environmentally friendly press, which significantly increases printing costs. The presses will be run with water and wind power, all the paper used will be sourced from sustainable forests and the dyes will all be organic and non-toxic.
Always mindful of his impact on the environment, Embleton will bike-deliver the book orders in the New York City area. For those orders outside of the city, the books will be shipped to one central distribution center and patrons will pick up their orders there, much like the method used by a CSA (community-supported agriculture).
Embleton says his philosophy on life is, “Go as far as your dreams can take you and it’s always important to dream big.” He certainly seems to be employing that line of thinking in every part of his life. Whether working with his students, his soccer players or fellow artists, Embleton couples his passions with lofty goals and hard work to deliver incredible results.